*Gut Reaction Review, Spoiler-Free*
Unfortunately, this book was not as good as I was hoping it would be. At first glance, it was pushing all of my buttons. X-Men-esque powers? Protagonist combatting a fierce power imbalance? Splash of fantasy? Stunning – STUNNING – cover? Checkity check.
But it just didn’t pan out for me. Let’s run through some of the characters to see why, shall we?
- Nym: Elemental/Storm Siren, orphan, slave, and technical impossibility since Elementals are only supposed to be boys, and are killed at birth. I suppose her active conscience and sorrow over her past (accidental) victims mark her as a good person, but in my mind she came across as a whiner paralyzed by fear of her own power. She drags her proverbial heels for practically the entire book.
- Lady Adora: wackadoodle noble and advisor to the king, she becomes Nym’s 15th owner and tells the girl she must learn to wield her power to help the land of Faelen win an ongoing war. She throws lavish parties, is usually costumed as some sort of animal, and fawns after every male she lays eyes on, including Eogan (below). Her cruel nature and cockamamy behavior never really mesh to the point where she becomes believable.
- Eogan: has blocking powers that make him invaluable as a trainer for powered individuals like Nym and Colin (below). Supposedly irresistibly handsome, but I never got into the on-again off-again romance between him and Nym. And when the secret of his calloused heart is revealed, I admit I thought he was just acting like a regular man the whole time. Oops.
- Colin: as a Terrene, he has the power to move earth and stone. His un-fantasied name stands out jarringly in a cast of non-traditional names. Colin serves largely as the comedic relief, which is why it never jives well on the few occasions author Mary Weber tries to have him impart sage wisdom. It’s also impossible to take him seriously when Nym keeps referring to him as “the bald boy,” even when the moment is supposed to be tense and heartfelt. Both he and Adora are too much like caricatures.
- Breck: Colin’s blind twin sister, I could never feel that bad for her because she could be so dang annoying. Judgy McJudgerson, she calls Nym a simple-minded idiot right off the bat for not immediately grasping a complex and unorthodox situation. While I have little lost love for Nym, Breck just made me groan.
Those are the major players, so I suppose it doesn’t speak well that I was most interested in the villainous Lord Miles, who barely shows up at all. I found myself thinking, “Yes, Nym, go work for him because at least he’s INTERESTING.” The King of Faelen also seemed decently well-rounded, but he appears even less than Miles.
Some of the minor fantasy elements piqued my interest, including half-breed animals and unearthly foliage (firefly trees!). Unfortunately, they felt half-developed, with one foot remaining rooted in enough reality to be relatable and the other trying to edge into something more bizarre. I wish the world-building had swung completely into the latter.
Ultimately, I found myself in the sad position of having 300 phone-screens worth of text left, 2 days on my library checkout, and a reluctance to finish even though things were clearly building to the climax. I did finish, but upon being left with what is no doubt an emotionally wrenching cliffhanger to some, I merely thought, “Well, sucks for you, Nym. Good luck with that.”
Story Siren author: Mary Weber